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Politics and Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Politics and Education

In the Department of Education Policy and Social Analysis

Alumni & Students

Alumni & Students

The Politics and Education Program is dedicated to expertly training students for their professional careers. Many students become policy leaders and professors. As you evaluate this program, consider the perspectives of a recent graduate and a current student in the program.      

Current Students
 

Ryan Allen

Ryan Allen, M.A. student
Politics & Education program
Teachers College, Columbia University  

I came to Teachers College after completing an MA in International Cooperation from Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea. While there, I attempted to merge my studies in international relations with education. This is why I targeted the Politics and Education program at EPSA, because it also attempts to bridge aspects in differing academia sectors. During my time as a student in Korea, I worked as an editor at 'Diplomacy' magazine. I have also been lucky enough to present research at various conferences and I have a few upcoming publications due this year. Before starting the Korean MA program, I taught in a public high school in Incheon, South Korea. Since I have been at TC, I have done research with the Human Development Department and I currently work at Columbia University Medical Center's P&S admissions office and as an intern at AIED Council.

Dane Holding

Dane Holding, M.A. student
Politics & Education program
Teachers College, Columbia University

After completing my undergraduate degree, I spent two years teaching for an NGO in India and a South Korean private academy. In addition to my teaching, I coordinated my NGO’s corps of volunteer teachers while in India, an experience which developed my interest in the politics that affect school administration. I applied to EPSA’s Politics & Education program because of this interest. Since arriving at Teachers College, I have developed an interest in quantitatively-driven school evaluation and assessment, and how data can be most effectively used to inform school reform efforts.

Renata Peralta

Renata Peralta, Ph.D. student
Politics & Education program
Teachers College, Columbia University

Having studied Political Science and Education for my bachelor's and master's degrees, and having worked in local government and research institutions, the Politics and Education program seemed like a great fit for my interests. Specifically, my interests revolve around how community organizing groups can affect local education policy. This interest came about through researching community organizing groups, which resulted in the publication of Getting to Outcomes: A User's Guide to a Revised Indicators Framework for Education Organizing. I currently intern at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform once a week to continue to be involved with community organizing groups and the issues they organize around.

I am also a Tisch Doctoral Fellow working in the Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy where I am combining my interests of community organizing with food justice issues.

Lara Pheatt

Lara Pheatt, Ph.D. candidate
Politics & Education program
Teachers College, Columbia University  

Lara Pheatt is a Ph.D. student in the Politics and Education program and a Senior Research Assistant at the Community College Research Center (CCRC).  Her research focuses on the politics of state finance and technological innovation in higher education. She plans to graduate in 2016.

Prior to attending Teachers College, Lara studied political economy at UC Berkeley and then taught for some years in K-12 and then abroad. After this, she transitioned into higher education in order to combine her love of education with her interests in management and administration of large organizations. After several years of working at the university, it was abundantly clear that state politics and policies deeply affect university function. In order to gain a theoretical grasp on what was happening at the ground level, Lara once again returned to graduate school to pursue her doctorate. Upon completion of her degree, Lara looks forward to a career as an academic.

Lara was recently awarded the Dean’s Grant for Student Research (May 2014) for her work on the rapid expansion of Massive Open Online Courses in public and private universities.

Lara also holds a M.A. in Teaching from the Johns Hopkins University.

Kathryn Smeglin

Kathryn Smeglin, Ed.D. student
Politics & Education program
Teachers College, Columbia University

I came to Teachers College, Columbia University in New York from Massachusetts where I was teaching art at Watertown Middle School and coordinating community partnerships for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. While in the classroom, I became interested in the broader goals and methods of education, and these interests have led me here to Teachers College. So far I have been enjoying getting a broader perspective through historical, legal, and organizational lenses. Education is such an exciting field, and I am happy to be working with so many talented peers here.

I currently intern with the Museum of Art and Design to help bring art to students in the Manhattan Alternative Learning Centers. I also love traveling and have recently visited South Korea, New Orleans, and Montreal. (My picture was taken in Boulder, CO during a US road trip.) For my own artwork, I am hand sewing a Victorian-style crazy quilt made from old T-shirts and linens. It has been three years in the making and I'm hoping this year will see it complete!

Rujia Wei

Rujia Wei, M.A. student
Politics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University

Education quality among different races and their socioeconomic status is currently the most appealing research subject to me. As an international student, I am also interested in the progress of this topic throughout the U.S. history.


Alumni

Esther Chan

Yan Seng (Esther) Chan
Politics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. 2009.

Ph.D. in Education
University of Cambridge, UK, 2013.

Esther came to Teachers College after completing her undergraduate degree in Government at the London School of Economics in the United Kingdom. The Politics and Education program was an excellent degree for her as it not only deepened her understanding of political science but also further cultivated her interest in education. She still remembers vividly the wonderful intellectual exchanges that took place at TC.  

P&E program helped her gain confidence to further her studies at the University of Cambridge, where she pursued a doctoral degree in Education. She says that she was able to apply a lot of what she learned at TC in her doctoral research examining different social classes’ ease of access to Chinese private education, its relation to the underlying social processes in the country, and its impact upon children’s future life chances. The topic of her dissertation was “Private Education in China: A Multiple-Case Study of Social Stratification and Social Change.”  

Having graduated from Cambridge, she is currently working as an Assistant to the Chairman in an education foundation in her hometown of Hong Kong, with operations in mainland China.  

“My TC education has provided me with the knowledge and analytical skills that are needed in my daily work. I am forever indebted to Teachers College, and particularly to my advisor, Professor Jeff Henig, for his teaching and continued guidance during my doctoral years and beyond,” Esther wrote.

Juliet Correll Wright

Juliet Correll-Wright
Politics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A., 2001

VP, Educational Services
My Learning Plan, Sarasota, FL

Juliet has served K-12 education for more than 20 years. In 2008, she joined My Learning Plan Inc., a learning organization and provider of integrated web-based solutions supporting educator growth. As VP of Educational Services, she collaborates with districts to align MLP systems to organizational best practices and evaluate the impact of professional learning. Previously, Juliet led product development and implementation teams, supporting an array of professional learning initiatives across the country, and served as a professional learning facilitator and an award-winning classroom teacher. She has presented at national and international conferences and spoken on educational technology in Dublin, Bologna, and Singapore.

Juliet is a 2012 graduate of the Learning Forward Academy.

Jami DeSantis

Jami DeSantis
Politics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, Ed.M., 2014

Law student,
University of Connecticut School of Law  

Jami began her career teaching middle and high school English in Connecticut and spent a year serving as the Interim Director of the Connecticut College Writing Center.  During that time she developed and facilitated workshops for teachers, college faculty, and students on a variety of topics.  After completing her administrative certification, Jami’s interest in politics led her to the EPSA program, where she began the Ed.M. program with a concentration on Politics and Education.  In part influenced by the law courses she took as part of her degree program, Jami applied to law school and will pursue her law degree at the UConn School of Law.  

Jami holds a B.A. in English and Classical Civilizations from Connecticut College, an M.A. in Curriculum and Teaching from Fairfield University, and a 6th year in Advanced Educational Leadership from the University of New England.

Rebecca Jacobsen

Rebecca Jacobsen
Politics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, Ph.D. 2007

Assistant Professor, College of Education   
Michigan State University   
                               
I entered the Politics and Education program at Teachers College while still teaching in the New York City public schools. While I enjoyed teaching, I was frustrated with the number of policies that seemed to trickle down and stop at my classroom door. These policies often made little sense for my students or the neighborhood community within which I worked. I realized that I needed to understand the larger political context of urban areas and the policy process if I wanted to really be able to make a difference in schools. I found that the P & E program at TC helped me do this and far more. 

I am currently an assistant professor at Michigan State University where I teach and conduct research on topics related to politics and education. The P & E program at TC prepared me to become a successful faculty member at a research institution because it allowed me to develop my own unique interests within the broader field of politics. The wide range of rigorous courses offered throughout TC and the larger Columbia University system enabled me to develop an expertise and strong research skills. I continue to work on a project about accountability systems with the Campaign for Educational Equity that began while I was at TC. I am also developing a research project on civic and political engagement that links the larger theoretical work in political science on this topic to the actual classroom practices of different schools.  

I continue to collaborate with my former TC doctoral cohort which was an amazing set of students to learn both from and with. The development of these relationships was made possible by the concerted efforts of our program advisor, Jeff Henig, who created special classes that brought us together. Developing these relationships has proved to be equally important to developing my skills and knowledge. They continue to provide me with critical but extremely useful feedback as I continue to pursue new research topics.      

Annika Many

Annika Many
Politics & Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. 2004

Principal, edBridge Partners, LLC
New York, NY

Annika Many is a senior professionally certified program and project manager with over twelve years experience in the education field. She has worked on a number of programs and services for higher education and K-12 educators. At edBridge Partners LLC, she is a principal of the firm, responsible for program development and management services. Prior to joining edBridge, Annika spent over nine years at the College Board, where she held positions in strategy, program, and project management, supporting several divisions across the organization. In her most recent  role as the Senior Director for the Advocacy & Policy Center, Annika spearheaded the development and implementation of the Affinity Network, a unique initiative that brought together K-12 and postsecondary educators to work towards improving students’ transition from high school to college; led the portfolio of advocacy and policy initiatives related to college affordability and financial aid; and, organized and directed the operations of the Center. 

During her time at Teachers College, she studied education politics and policy with some of the premiere faculty in the field, including Luis Huerta, Amy Stuart Wells, and Jeffrey Henig, as well as had great practical experiences from participation in the Federal Policy Institute and an internship in government relations at the American Educational Research Association. Annika also worked full time as a project assistant at the Community College Research Center, where she supported research projects on topics such as the role of community colleges in state adult education systems, and institutional success factors for students in community colleges.

Annika also holds a M.P.A. degree in non-profit management from Pace University, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in psychology from Carnegie Mellon University. 

Lauren McDade

Lauren McDade
Politics & Education program
Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. 2013

Lauren McDade is currently a Development Associate for City Year, an education non-profit that works to end the dropout crisis in cities across the country by training and deploying idealistic young people to serve as tutors, mentors, and role models to students in low-performing, high-poverty schools.

Lauren came to the Master’s program in Politics & Education after serving as an AmeriCorps member with City Year Washington, DC where she worked in a school in Northeast DC tutoring and mentoring high school students. Working in a high-poverty school inspired her to commit her career to education equity and social justice. At Teachers College, she focused her studies in urban education and education law. She completed her M.A. in Politics and Education in May 2013.

She also holds a B.A. in Political Science from Towson University, MD.

Kenann McKenzie-Thompson

Kenann McKenzie-Thompson
Politics and Education Program
Teachers College Columbia University, Ph.D. 2012

Administrator, D.C. Public Schools

As a student at TC, Kenann broadened her appreciation for studying issues affecting urban settings and also deepened her commitment to issues of social justice. Through her courses and experiences, she discovered her deep passion for civic capacity building and community restoration. After several years into the program, her classes and research began to coalesce around these issues.

During her years of study, since 2007, Kenann worked on studies as a consultant to Georgetown University and the University of Arkansas.  In that capacity, she was able to serve as a co-author on the study entitled, “Satisfied, Optimistic, Yet Concern: Parent  Voices on the Third Year of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program."

Kenann McKenzie Thompson completed the Ph.D. program in November 2011. Her dissertation, titled “The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001: The Politics of Accountability and Building Civic Capacity in Four Schools in Maryland” focused on civic capacity building for school and community engagement for reform. Dr. McKenzie-Thompson currently works as an administrator in DC public schools, is an adjunct lecturer at American University, and serves as President of Janyo LLC, a community-based group focused on sustainable community development and engagement. She lives in the DC area, is married and has two children.

Emily Murphy

Emily E. Murphy
Politics and Education Program
Teachers College Columbia University, M.A. 2014  

Director of Programs
Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy Boston, MA  

Emily started her education career as a Montessori Spanish teacher, dedicating afterschool hours to teaching adult English Language Learners through the Center for New Americans and coaching skiing for the Special Olympics. She is a former middle school special education teacher and program liaison for students with significant disabilities. Teaching within the public sector made her conscious of the need for research and policy that immediately impacts student outcomes, yet is sensitive to the reality that affecting meaningful change takes time and the investment of multiple stakeholders. Combining her on-the-ground experience as an educator with an interest in politics and policy, Emily joined the department’s Politics and Education Program in 2012.   

While in the Department of Education Policy and Social Analysis, Emily had the opportunity to expand her leadership skills by representing EPSA on the Student Senate, co-organizing the EPSA Policy Pop-Up Discussion Series, and hosting roundtable discussions on teacher leadership and reform: “Teacher Voice: Power, Unions, and the Structure of Education Reform” and “The Biggest Bullies in Schools…Teachers Unions?” 

Currently, Emily is the Director of Programs at the Rennie Center where she manages a full portfolio of labor-management initiatives including the Massachusetts Education Partnership’s District Capacity Project and Interest Based Bargaining Institute. She also is the coordinator of the Education Policy Fellowship Program-Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Institute for College and Career Readiness.   

Emily holds a M.S. in Special Education from Simmons College and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Justin J. Pequeno Gonzalez

Justin J. Pequeño González 
Politics & Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. 2013

Project Analyst, Kamehameha Schools

Justin began his career in education in the lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas with youth programs in leadership development and the arts through the National Hispanic Institute and Frida, Inc., respectively. Noticing that the social inequities that plagued marginalized communities like his hometown were structural, his desire grew to positively affect the lives of others through education and educational policy. 

He is currently a Project Analyst for Kamehameha Schools' Ka Pua Initiative, a regional approach to supporting the education of all children along the Waiʻanae Coast of Oʻahu, regardless of race or ethnicity. This collaborative effort exists with multiple cross-sector partnerships ranging from early childhood providers to human services and health professionals to address the many factors influencing educational outcomes in a poverty-stricken community. 

He also holds a B.S. in Psychology and American Studies from Tufts University.

Beth Schueler

Beth Schueler
Politics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. 2010.

I came to TC from the West Coast where I ran academic summer camps and coached competitive policy debate. Through my TC capstone project, I connected with a New York City Council member representing West Harlem and Washington Heights and went on to work on his legislative affairs team. Meanwhile, I developed research skills through coursework at TC and the broader Columbia University system. These experiences motivated me to further develop my ability to conduct education policy-related research. 

I am currently pursuing these interests as a doctoral student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and as a doctoral fellow in the Harvard University-wide Inequality and Social Policy program. My research relates to the role of educational programs in mitigating social inequality. In particular, I am examining the effectiveness of strategies to turnaround persistently under-performing schools and districts. I am grateful to have participated in TC's Politics and Education program and to still be connected with the TC community.

Jason Willis

Jason Willis
Politics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. 2006.  

Assistant Superintendent
Community Engagement & Accountability
San Jose Unified School District

Presently, Jason is managing the implementation of the new, 5-year strategic plan including significant reforms for human capital management and school redesign. San Jose Unified serves 33,000 students in California’s Silicon Valley. Prior to San Jose Unified Jason Willis was the Chief Financial, Business Officer for the Stockton Unified School District. Prior to that he was the budget director for Oakland Unified School District in California, where he managed the district-wide budget development, implementation and monitoring process to ensure that funds are equitably allocated in support of the district's strategic priorities. He has published several articles focused on effective resource use, central office redesign, and weighted student funding models with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, the Association of School Business Officials International, and the School Finance Redesign Project at the University of Washington.

Tyler Whittenberg

Tyler Whittenberg
Politics and Education
Teachers College, Columbia University , M.A., 2010

Special Projects Attorney
Youth Law Center, San Francisco, CA

Tyler's entire academic and professional careers have been dedicated to education equity and ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline. After graduating from the University of South Carolina, Tyler served socioeconomically disadvantaged students as an 8th grade social studies teacher in Hopkins, South Carolina. Disheartened by the lack of funding for public education and the devastating impact of zero tolerance discipline policies, he enrolled at Teachers College, Columbia University in pursuit of a master’s degree in Politics and Education. Here, Tyler studied the various facets of the School-to-Prison Pipeline, charter school reform, education funding and education law.  

After receiving his masters in Politics and Education, Tyler continued advocating for education equity as an Education Policy Fellow with the North Carolina Justice Center’s Education Law Project. While working in North Carolina, he worked to empower students, parents and community members with the tools necessary to promote education equity and ensure equal access to a quality education.  

Tyler chose to attend Tulane University Law School in the Fall of 2011 to improve his ability to advocate for youth. During law school, he volunteered with Stand Up for Each Other (SUFEO)—a student-led organization representing youth who have been wrongfully suspended and expelled from New Orleans public schools.  SUFEO’s youth representation addressed the devastating impact of biased discipline policies, school push outs, and the over-criminalization of youth of color. For these efforts, Tyler was awarded the Louisiana State Bar Association’s 2014 Student Pro Bono Award.      

David Wright

David Wright
Politics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, Ph.D. 2013

As remarked by TC President Susan Fuhrman during the 2013 doctoral hooding ceremony, I took the “long road” to TC, entering the doctoral program after completing my professional career in government, politics and international business. For me it was a time to both reflect upon and deepen my understanding of the critical linkages between education and democracy while attempting to penetrate the veil of persistently low voter turnout among US young adults – a constituency that demonstrates both the highest same-age educational attainment and lowest voter turnout of any age category.

The TC Politics and Education program was instrumental to the pursuit of my academic agenda in several respects. Its flexibility permitted me to pursue a fully individualized and integrated education and political science curriculum.  Its leadership profile established a high benchmark for creative but rigorous scholarship to attack the young adult voter turnout problem. And the faculty relationships it engendered -- particularly those involving Jeff Henig, Doug Ready and Bob Shapiro -- provided an endless source of ideas, constructive criticism and encouragement.

I look forward to continuing my political participation research, and I greatly value my ongoing TC affiliation as an adjunct faculty member in the Politics and Education program.